Spider Veins: Reasons behind the Blue and Purple Lines

Spider veins are those networks of blue and purple lines that often appear on the surface of the skin. They may resemble a spider’s web, which is how these visible veins got their name. If you have spider veins, you may wonder why they appear like blue and purple lines when the blood inside them is red. To understand the reason requires a dose of biology mixed with physics, but the answer is actually much simpler than it sounds.

Blood and Oxygen

Some people have attributed the appearance of blue veins to the lack of oxygen in the blood at that time. Oxygenated blood is pumped from the heart to the rest of the body, where it supplies oxygen and other nutrients to the various body systems. Once the oxygen is depleted, blood is carried back to the heart and lungs via the veins so the process can begin all over again.

Oxygenated blood is bright red, while deoxygenated blood is more of a maroon hue. So why do spider veins appear blue and purple instead of maroon? The answer lies in the physics portion of this lesson – light refraction.

Light and Blood

The blue and purple hue of the veins stems from the way light is refracted on the skin. Because the veins may be located at slightly different depths under the skin’s surface, the color of the veins may be somewhat different in different areas. This also explains why spider veins may look redder on one skin tone and bluer on another.

This discovery was made in 1996, by Canadian researchers at the Ontario Laser and Light Wave Research Center. Scientists set up simulated blood vessels using test tubes filled with blood and immersed them in a fatty fluid similar to human skin. The researchers found veins had to be at least 0.2 inches below the skin’s surface to appear blue, while veins closer to the surface appeared redder.

Treatments for Spider Veins

No matter what the reason behind the color of those vein networks, the good news is there are many effective treatments to eliminate them today. Injectable treatments and laser procedures target affected veins, sealing them closed without damaging surrounding tissue and skin. Procedures typically involve little discomfort and little to no downtime afterward. 

If you are ready to say goodbye to unsightly spider veins, we can help. Contact Advanced Varicose Veins Treatments of Manhattan at 212-204-6501 today to schedule your personal consultation.

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